Nutrition - the How, When and Why
Tom Kissel | Thursday, 08 October 2015
Whether you're an elite athlete looking for an edge or a weekend warrior, having the correct nutrition can help get the most out of your performance on the day. Using sports nutrition also helps to promote recovery long after your exercise or race is over. This all starts with having the knowledge to pick the best products for what you are doing. In this post, we'll aim to make sense of the confusing world that sports nutrition can be.
Simply put, gels, bars and “lollies” all provide your body with the necessary carbohydrates to delay muscle fatigue, raise blood sugar levels and enhance performance.
Gels are by far the easiest way to keep your body going as they are easy to take and absorbed lightening fast. Gels come in varying styles. Some are very thin and have water to help hydrate you, which can be great in a longer event without water points and quicker than filling a bottle. Some are thicker and give you a feeling of having eaten something. Gels come in non-caffeinated and caffeinated varieties depending on when you may take them during exercise. A caffeine gel is a great way to give you that last boost and keep you focused when you are starting to fade. Depending on the brand, gels are to be taken 15 minutes before exercise and then every 20-45 min during.
Jelly lolly style energy chews are in between a gel and a bar as far as ease of use. They take a bit more effort to get down than a gel but are much easier than a bar. They are absorbed quickly and taste great encouraging you to keep up your eating during exercise. These also come caffeinated or non-caffeinated.
For longer rides, bars are a great option to keep energy levels up and give you a feeling of having eaten something substantial. This can help the stomach on longer events as you will often switch to gels later on. Using only gels in a longer distance event can be tough on the stomach. Bars are of course a little harder to eat so consuming them earlier in a race when you are still comfortable and riding with a bunch is a great option. Getting to the pointy end of things, a bar will only slow you down trying to open, eat and digest it.
Hydration is important during exercise as dehydration can end your day very quickly. Common to popular belief, more recent studies suggest drinking when you are thirsty (or a few sips every 10mins) is adequate. There are two components to most sports drinks that are important - carbohydrates and electrolytes. Carbohydrates help to boost energy levels. Electrolytes, the most important part, are lost when you sweat. Electrolytes regulate our nerve and muscle function, our body's hydration and rebuilding of damaged tissue. Low electrolyte levels can lead to weakened muscles, cramping and dehydration.
Proper fuel during exercise helps your recovery. Your muscles are not put in as much of a state of fatigue and your body is not as depleted of its natural reserves that require rebuilding. Your body simply isn't as broken down when you have finished your exercise allowing you to bounce back faster. However, your body has still had a hammering and it is hugely important to aid it's recovery as soon as possible. Protein powders are a great way to do this as they help replenish your energy stores (carbohydrates) but the protein also helps to repair damaged and torn muscle tissues.
Example - Putting it into Practice
Lets look at an example race like the Motatapu challenge which has an average time of 3 1/2 hours.
20mins prior to the start take a Gel to get the system ready to go. Starting late will leave you playing catch up on your nutrition for the remainder of the race. Once riding take an Em's Power Cookie bite or 4 x GU Chews every 30mins for the first 2 hours. This will keep your stomach settled and provide ample slow release Carbohydrates. For the last 1.5 hours move to faster acting easier to digest Gels. One Gel every 20-30mins for the remainder of the race with your last Gel being a caffeine one to give you the extra kick for the final push to the finish line.
Hydrate well the night before, you wont want to drink a lot on the morning as you'll only need to stop for the toilet 10mins into the race. Use a carbohydrate and electrolyte blend in your bottles/camelback and drink as needed. Again don't just guzzle away as over hydrating will only mean more toilet stops. When you are thirsty, drink - simple.
To sum up, your body needs fuel just like a car. If you let your fuel get to low then you will not make the finish line and have to call in a tow! After all of your hard training to go down as a DNF, simply from inadequate nutrition, would be heartbreaking and not to mention the longer term effects this can have. Now that you are informed come in and see us and talk to our knowledgeable staff about what you'll need to keep you going.